by Christopher Helman of Forbes
Despite the depression in the oil and gas sector, this year Hilcorp Energy employees are enjoying a $100,000 bonus.
It’s the continuation of a tradition at Hilcorp, owned by billionaire Jeffery Hildebrand. Five years ago, when Hilcorp achieved its goal of doubling its oil and gas production, Hildebrand gave every employee the choice of $35,000 cash or $50,000 towards a new car. This year, despite the downturn, Hilcorp doubled its output again, to more than 150,000 barrels per day. So Hildebrand doubled the bonus — to $100,000.
With about 1,400 employees, Hildebrand’s largesse will total more than $100 million (amounts are said to be prorated depending on how much of the past five years a worker was with the company).
Yes Hildebrand, 56, has been generous with his workers, but they have helped him make an incredible amount of money — $5.9 billion by FORBES’ latest count. (But we probably ought to knock that down to $5.8 billion after these bonuses.) His fortune has about trebled since the last big bonus in 2010.
It’s a wonderful way to inspire hard work and loyalty, especially among the lower ranks, where $100,000 is well in excess of what many workers make in a year. “It’s just a true gift, and I think myself, along with everyone, is not going to give less than 100 percent each day,” receptionist Amanda Thompson told Fox 4 News in Houston.
Hilcorp is the largest privately held oil and gas producer in the country. Hildebrand, believed to be the sole owner, doesn’t hand out these bonuses to get attention, but to motivate. Unlike the bosses of publicly traded companies, Hildebrand can’t divvy out stock options. But he is known for generous salaries and benefits and a workplace perennially voted as one of the best in the industry. In addition to giving his employees money, Hildebrand has also engineered some innovative ways for them to give it away. According to a story in the Houston Chronicle, when a new employee joins Hilcorp, the company opens an account in their name at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, deposits $2,500 in it, then matches the employee’s additional contributions to the fund dollar-for-dollar up to $2,000. The employee can donate the money to any 501(c)3 charity. Hilcorp repeats the process every year. Since 2007 the program has reportedly contributed more than $11 million to charity.